User:Jpbrenna/sandbox/History of Argos

History of Argos

Ancient ArgosEdit


Argos has not attracted the interest of as many ancient and modern scholars as have Athens and other sites. "Argos proclaimed no great historian, no Herodotus or Thucydides whose writings were preserved during the merciless rejection of the less relevant or readable in Late Roman and Byzantine times." [1]:1-2 Argos gave no great statesmen, no striking post-Bronze Age remains, and is noted for a single famous king whose date is in doubt.[1]:2


"Not negligible, her history is important, without Argos, all Peloponnese would have been under Sparta." [1]:2

"Stable community with a system of government suited to its particular conditions..." [1]:3 The Argive school of sculpture is important, Polyclitus one of the greatest classical sculptors.

Bronze Age ArgosEdit

The Lions' Gate at Mycenae

Bronze Age - independent cities, important power centres Mycenae Tiryns Agamemnon

Basic geography of the ArgolidEdit

Greek writers used the terms Argolis, Argice, and Argeia to refer to the plain of Argos. In Bronze Age Greece, the plain was divided into territories controlled by independent Mycenean palace societies, but in Archaic and Classical times it was more or less unified under the control of emergent Argos, and the history of Argolis is thus mostly inseparable from the history of Argos.

Fertile plains of Argos, "sheltered beach" for trade with Levant, Egypt, Syria, Crete, Anatolia.[1]:7

Triangular plain, modern roads and rail mostly follow ancient. Never deserted or unimportant. (p. 8)

Mythical Danaos brought irrigation from Egypt; digging of wells. "Rich in corn", "nourisher of horses" Iliad II, 287 (p.10)

Relative absence of wine; Nemea is better suited for it. "Long under Argive domination" provided impetus for expansion on the part of Argive elite. (pp. 13-14).

Towns Mycenean settlements collapsed and population dispersed, most major centres were not completely abandoned, but show evidence of greatly reduced population. At Argos, the fortified Apsida Hill remained inhabited for a time, before the settlement pattern shifted to the southeast to the area encompassing classical Argos. Bronze Age chief settlement was Aspis. Temple of Apollo Deiridates --"of Deria"-- oldest temple, to Apollo Pythia. Others include Hera Akrais, Athena. Apollo temple has been excavated. Nemean stadium relocated here when the games were. (pp. 23-4)

There is no evidence of a city wall at the earliest stages. The war-like Dorians who settled Argos, like those at Sparta, likely relied on their own military prowess to defend the city and did not see the need to bother with fortifications.

Argos -water, astride major routes through Argolid, fortress of Larissa. Dorian settlement covered about 200 acres with estimated 10,000 population, majority lived outside fortifications in suburbs. Deirean Gate next to Apsida hill probably northern boundary. Lykea and Mantues pre-Doric.

Pausanias 2.10.4 etc.

Kriterion - judgement place -7-5th c. platform w/ relief of Epetiades - triads of divinites Temple of Aphrodite Temple of Apollo Lykeion Agora on south side Possible bouleterion, 100 doric feet (0.362m) (pp. 21-2) Unidentified temples: Nemean Zeus Tyche Zeus Soter Asclepius Artemis Athena Flowery Hera (p.22)

Other gates mentioned by Pausanias:

  • Eleutherian
  • Nemean
  • Kyklarabis
  • Dionysian


Other settlements:

  • Kleonai
  • Nemea - one modern village, Heraklion. (p.32)
  • Mycenae - destroyed by Argos, 460, after brief return to independence after Sopeia, abandoned until Hellenistic era (p.33)
  • Argive Heraion - religious site
  • Proseyuse - probably belonged to Mycenae
  • Mysia - sanctuary to Demeter (p.34)
  • Tomb of Thorestes - "The Rams", modern church near Phyctia
  • Kencheriai
  • Hysaiai - fortified site, guarded approach from Arcadia
  • Lykea
  • Orneia
  • Tiryns - perhaps south of modern Merbaka (p.44 - seems to be questioning identification of site excavated by German archaeologists)
  • Midea
  • Lesa - probably modern Agios Adrianos
  • Lerna
  • Temesion
  • Nauplia
  • Genesion - near Atisyai

Disputed with Sparta

  • Anygraiai
  • Thyrestis -- both in modern Arcadia

Many outlying towns abandoned during Roman times when observed by Pausanias due to changes in landownership patterns; landowners were fewer, lived in Argos. Classical majority lived outside the main settlement of Argos.

Dorian ArgosEdit

Argive pottery

13th c. BC "Dorian Invasion" - probably a quick series of massive attacks on Mycenean settlements causing destruction and abandonment or near-abandonment of sites as survivors dispersed to the hills. Widespread destruction, abandonment and dispersal of population. Later gradual waves of Dorian settlers moved in to depopulated areas and became the dominant group, with non-Dorian inhabitants excluded from government. Thesis supported by evidence of construction of defensive wall at the Isthmus of Corinth into Peloponnese, attempt also seen during end of Roman era, a similar time of societal collapse and reorganization. (p.51) Writing lost, palace system gone, consequent decline in trade and reduced evidence of metals and foreign goods in archaeological record. (pp.52-3) 300 years of gradual, sporadic Doric settlement. (p.56) Pre-Doric varieties of Greek survive in Arcadia (Arcado-Cypriot). Dorian Argives preserve division into three Dorian tribes: the Pamphyli, Hylleis, Dymanes. Interesting to note the parallel between Pan-phyloi "all tribes" and Germanic "Alemanni" - "All Men", both apparently referring to an aggolomeration of smaller tribes. (p. 54). All classical inscriptions preserve tribal names alongside personal names, but only later ones give the phratry as well (p.56). "Return of the Hereclidae" (p.58) Dorian kings descend from Temenos, came to Temenion (p.60) Stories subject to editing, more so than Homer. Difficult to distinguish "essentially historical" folk memory from later embellishment, mythopoesis and propaganda (p.62). "Lot of Temenos used to justify rule of Argive kings (ibid.) Argos, Mysia and Tyrins never full abandoned in archaeological record, but settlement at Argos shifted east of Larissa. (p.64) Geometric pottery inside Doric settlements appears beginning 11th c. BC. (p.65) Population is small, slowly disappears from Aspis, probably mixed with Dorians.

8th-9th c. BC Tiryns etc. still independent (p.67) Evidence of pottery workshop outside of town of Argos. Likely division of society into warriors, carftsmen and farmers - gymnetes, the naked ones (pp.67-8) Ruled by a "king," a "grandiloquent" title for someone who was essentially a chieftain of one settlement (p.68) Given evidence of Sparta and Crete, likely dorian citizens ruled over non-Dorians in a system where one Dorian family directed several non-Dorian families of farmers and crafstmen. (p.69) Religious continuity of pre-Dorian observance.

8th C. New pottery appears, starts to depict Pegasus (p.71) Assyrian style armor from tomb indicates increased trade and contacts outside Greece. "Fire dogs" found in tomb (used for cooking aboard ship) indicate nautical orientation. Possible elite status-seeking drives trade and warfare activities of warrior caste. Buried equipment shows increased wealth that can be disposed of in burial, at least for ruling class. (pp. 71-2) Trade still small, gradual increase in agriculture funds elite travel and warfare, provides impetus for expansion into Argive plain and conquest. Aiyos conquered, intervening cities probably had to be conquered first; Spartan intervention fails and Argos expands (pp.75-6). Later Argives preserved memory of "empire" reported by Herodotus, possession of east Peloponnesian coast (probably down to Astros) and the island of Kythera; perhaps system of tribute extracted by sea-raiding. Strabo says Tiryns, Asiai and Nauplia attacked "because of disobedience." Coastal cities provide revenue and way-stations to fund trade with Crete. Clash with Sparta of Helos. (p.78)

Roman ArgosEdit

Mediaeval ArgosEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e RA Tomlinson, Argos and the Argolid: From the End of the Bronze Age to the Roman Occupation (Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press: 1972) ISBN 0801407133